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Google accused of illegally tracking Android users through advertising IDs

Google accused of illegally tracking Android users through advertising IDs

Prominent Austrian activist and lawyer Max Schrems accused Google of constantly spying on Android users without their knowledge. According to the Financial Times, he filed a complaint with the French National Commission on Information Technology and Human Rights (CNIL), which alleges that the search giant violates the privacy rights of more than 300 million European citizens using Android devices by creating unique advertising identifiers.

Schrems ‘organization None Of Your Business (NOYB) found that these Android Advertising Identifiers (AAIDs) enable Google, third-party developers and advertisers to track users’ online activity in order to serve ads more effectively. The charge alleges that Android generates AAID without the user’s knowledge or consent, which means that Google is violating the 2002 Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive, also known as the Cookie Directive. This is a separate piece of legislation that is under consideration at this stage.

“Imagine you have a colored powder on your hands and feet that leaves marks everywhere – every time you act in the mobile ecosystem. And you cannot get rid of it, just change it to another color. This is the Android advertising identifier – a tracker that marks your every step in the system and beyond, ”said the attorney for NOYB.

The charge states that Android creates an AAID that Google or third parties can access to track user behavior, preferences, and better target ads. Schrems’ organization claims that Google not only sets the AAID without user consent, but also denies them the ability to remove it. The only thing they can do is reset the ID, after which a new tracking code will be generated.

The activist called on the French department to start investigating such behavior on the part of Google and to force the company to comply with the rules of confidentiality. In accordance with European laws, in this case, the CNIL has the right to make a decision independently and, unlike the GDPR, the French commission is not obliged to involve other European regulators.

By the way, the same organization previously filed a similar complaint against Apple, which was accused of introducing an advertising identifier (IDFA) into the iOS 14 operating system, which tracks the actions of iPhone users without their consent. NOYB members claimed that IDFA works exactly the same as AAID on Android. Incidentally, Max Schrems has a successful track record of filing such complaints. Last summer, he got the main EU-US data exchange mechanism known as the Privacy Shield invalidated.

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